Cowboy Caviar is a chunky, flavor-packed recipe perfect as a scoopable appetizer or side salad. Tangy, spicy and full of colorful wholesome ingredients you’ll love.
I first fell in love with Cowboy Caviar at a holiday weekend potluck and it’s been a favorite recipe ever since.
The bright, colorful ingredients in this chunky dip will hook you immediately.
Fresh spicy flavors, in a light tangy dressing make it hard to stop scooping onto salty tortilla chips.
It’s fast to make and perfect for parties and gatherings.
It’s a relaxed recipe that’s completely flexible to be changed up with your favorite ingredients.
What is Cowboy Caviar?
Is it a scoopable dip or a side dish?
It’s a chunky recipe of beans, corn, onion, chile peppers and more in a tangy-zesty dressing.
Easy to make and perfect for any casual meal.
Great either as a side salad OR as an appetizer dip.
It was invented by Helen Corbitt, the Director of Food Services at Neiman-Marcus in Texas in the early 1900’s.
You’ll also hear it called ‘Texas Caviar’.
Cowboy Caviar is a naturally gluten-free recipe.
The beauty of this dish, besides it’s great spicy flavor, is the flexibility of the ingredients.
My version was originally intended for using up garden produce and can be adapted for your favorite ingredients.
There is NO caviar in Cowboy Caviar!
- Black Beans
- Black Eyed Peas
- Sweet Corn (fresh, canned or frozen/thawed)
- Bell Pepper
- Red Onion
- Jalapeno Pepper
The dressing is a tangy, spicy vinaigrette that gives life to the chunky cowboy dip ingredients.
The amount of dressing is light to keep focus on the tasty main ingredients.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- fresh Lime Juice
- Chili Powder or Cayenne Pepper if wanting a spicy batch
- Salt and Pepper
How to Make Cowboy Caviar – Step by Step
This is an easy recipe and can be whipped up in minutes.
It can be served immediately. The best results are after chilling it for one hour!
The flavors blend together for a delicious result.
STEP 1: Add the dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to fully combine and dissolve the sugar (photo 1).
STEP 2: Combine the non-dressing ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (photos 2).
STEP 3: Pour the dressing on the cowboy caviar and mix well (photos 3-4).
How to Serve it
As an Appetizer. Serve with salty tortilla chips for dipping.
As a Side Dish. Great with roasted chicken or grilled meats.
As a Relish. Serve it on grilled fish, as a topping on tostadas and more.
How to Change it Up
This is a very flexible recipe. Here are some ways to change it up:
Use Homemade Beans. Cook dried beans in your favorite way to use in this recipe.
Use all Black Beans. Replace the black eyed peas with black beans too for a southwestern feel.
Add some Chopped Avocado. For a creamy addition avocado tames the heat and adds wonderful texture and color.
Substitute Sriracha for the Chili Powder. Still keeps it spicy but with a different flavor.
Make is Spicier. Swap the jalapeno pepper for a Serrano pepper which is ‘hotter’ in spice. TIP: the seeds are the spiciest part of the pepper. Be sure to remove them before dicing.
Add some Tangy Spice. For some tang add in chopped pepperocinis.
Change the Vinegar. Try a red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar.
Grill the Corn. Grilled corn caramelizes the sugars for a smoky, sweet flavor. Grill the ears of corn and remove the kernels from the cob.
Use prepared Italian Salad Dressing. This shortcut will save time and add a different flavor with Italian Dressing. The recipe uses approximately ½ cup of dressing. Start with a ¼ cup, stir in, taste and add more if needed/preferred.
Can it be Made Ahead of Time?
Yes, it can!
It has the best texture the day it’s made. However the flavor blend and improve over time.
Making it the day before serving still retains the great texture and allows the flavors to build too.
How to Store it
Place in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
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This spicy, chunky salad is full of great flavors, textures and colors. It's a perfect side dish or appetizer. Three levels of ‘heat’ are included to pick from to make the recipe perfect for your spiciness preference.
- 1 15-ounce can Black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 15-ounce can Black Eyed Peas drained and rinsed
- 3/4 cup Bell Pepper (any color) chopped
- 1 1/2 cups fresh Corn Kernels canned (drained) or frozen/thawed corn may be substituted
- 1 1/2 cups ripe Tomatoes seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup Red Onion diced
- 1/3 cup fresh Cilantro chopped
- 1 4-5 inch long Jalapeno Pepper seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili pepper or cayenne pepper (spicier)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Lime Juice
- pinch Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the main (non dressing) ingredients in a large mixing or serving bowl. Stir to fully combine.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl; whisk to combine.
Pour the dressing evenly over the cowboy caviar; stir to coat.
May be served immediately. For best results cover and chill for at least an hour before serving as a side dish, relish or as an appetizer to dip with chips.
If serving as an appetizer with tortilla chips you will not need extra sald.
If serving as a relish or side dish, salt and pepper to taste after chilling.
Originally Published: September 9, 2011